Isi Leibler, a former activist on behalf of Soviet Jews and a leader of Australian Jewry, has died in Israel. He was 86.
Leibler, who was born in Belgium but grew up in Melbourne, Australia, led the Executive Council of Australian Jewry for nearly 20 years until 1995. He later served on the governing board of the World Jewish Congress. He was WJC’s honorary vice president at the time of his death Tuesday.
In addition to lobbying with Australian governments to let in Jews leaving the former Soviet Union and leading public awareness campaigns to allow more of them to leave, Leibler used his contacts in China and India to improve their relations with Israel and eventually establish diplomatic relations with that country.
A multimillionaire who founded and then sold the JetSet Tours tourism firm, Leibler immigrated to Israel, or made aliyah, in 1999.
A stalwart of the Israeli right wing, Leibler was a longtime columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom.
Leibler had a key role in exposing a scandal within the World Jewish Congress involving the conduct of its former secretary-general, Israel Singer, who quit in 2007 amid criticism of his alleged misuse of the organization’s funds for personal gain.
In 2004, Leibler publicly accused Singer of misusing funds, leading to a drop in donations. The World Jewish Congress sued Leibler for libel, but dropped the suit in 2007.
“The Jewish world has lost a great leader,” former Israeli ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem wrote on Twitter.